The 12th annual Massachusetts Blue Ribbon Calf Sale was held March 19 at the Eastern States Exposition in West Springfield, MA. There were approximately 600 people from all over New England and New York on site to inspect and purchase dairy calves through a consignment auction. A total of 60 calves from seven different dairy breeds were up for bid including Holsteins, Red & White Holsteins, Milking Short Horns, Brown Swiss, Jerseys, Guernsey and Ayrshire. There were plenty of other aspects to the event including youth clinics, commercial vendors, a silent auction and raffles. The calf sale, which was put on by the Massachusetts 4-H Dairy Committee, included free admission and parking.
“The purpose of this event is to have all breeds of dairy calves available for sale at one place and during one time,” Massachusetts Blue Ribbon Calf Sale co-chair Carrie Sears said. “There are a about 240 youths ranging from ages eight to 18 at this event who have the opportunity to network with others and learn about dairy cattle from some of the top professionals within the cattle industry.”
When youths at the event were not learning from others many of them volunteered their time by helping with the event setup, calf grooming and calf presentation during the auction. All 60 calves were sold during the auction and a total of $107,525.00 was brought in, breaking last year’s total. The average price paid per calf was $1,792, which was another record. The highest sale went to a bidder from Wisconsin at a price of $4,400 for a choice lot of three Black & White Holstein calves born during the first week of March in Nunda, NY and sired by a Doorman Bull. Other calves that were sold went to Pennsylvania, New York, Delaware, New Hampshire, Vermont, Maine, Connecticut and Massachusetts.
“The calves that are purchased at this event will go on to hopefully win blue ribbons at a fair,” Massachusetts Blue Ribbon Calf Sale Chairman Moira Poitras said. “A lot of the calves will also be used for 4-H projects before eventually becoming part of a milking herd.”
All proceeds from the auction go to support the Massachusetts 4-H Dairy Program, which allows participating youths to attend various seminars and judging clinics each year such as the National Judging and Quiz Bowl Contest and the National 4-H Dairy Conference.
Prior to the auction attendees at the event had a wide range of ways to keep occupied. There were commercial vendors at the event to chat with including breed associations, show suppliers, grain companies and feed supplement suppliers. There was a silent auction for semen donated by bull stud companies and a raffle with various items donated by farmers and 4-H groups.
The Blue Ribbon Calf Sale started out at the University of Massachusetts Dairy Facility where it was held for four years before outgrowing that location and moving to the Mallary Complex at the Eastern States Exposition. According to Sears the event has grown every year in all aspects including youth clinics. These educational clinics were started seven years.
The event was able to grow again this year with the addition of a youth preview event, which took place the evening before the cattle sale. In previous years all the youth clinics were held on the day of the event, a couple of hours before the auction.
“It was a good opportunity to take advantage of the building space and get more youth participation,” Sears said. “We were able to offer two clinics and a dinner compliments of The Eastern States Exposition and Performance Products.”
There were a total of seven clinics between the two days with topics included fitting your show heifer, perfecting your showmanship skills, feeding your heifer at the show, showbox necessities, halter making, animal welfare & public relations, and careers in agriculture.
Erin Norris of West Hampton, MA and Davis Shaw of Oxford, MA are both former 4-H members who have been involved in the Massachusetts Blue Ribbon Calf Sale for the past eight years. They have taken part in everything from feeding and shaving the calves to being clinic demonstrators and teachers. Along the way they have gained a great deal of knowledge and experience in leadership, community service and proper dairy calf showing.
“Helping out with the calf sale allows you learn to be more of a leader,” Norris said. “You can then prepare younger kids who take part in this to be future leaders.”
“As you get older you can make a lot of connections with people here who can help you if you plan on continuing in agriculture in the future,” Shaw added.
Both teens agreed that participating in the Massachusetts Blue Ribbon Calf Sale has been a great stepping-stone for the next phase of their life. They are both now freshmen in college, with Norris majoring in Animal Science at the University of Connecticut and Shaw majoring in Business at Worcester State University in Massachusetts.
For more information on the Massachusetts Blue Ribbon Calf Sale visit www.blueribboncalfsale.com.